New Parent Checklist Provides Questions to Ask Your Child’s School and More

The first day of school is rapidly approaching (and may already be here for some schools on a year-round calendar). The US Department of Education has partnered with the National PTA and other organizations to create a new parent checklist of questions and resources for families to use to help ensure their children are getting the education they deserve.

The checklist follows the set of rights that Education Secretary Arne Duncan recently unveiled at the National PTA Convention. The checklist is available in both Spanish and English, and provides a list of key questions to ask at your child’s school, including:

Quality: Is my child getting a great education?

  • How will you keep me informed about how my child is doing on a regular basis? How can we work together if my child falls behind?
  • Is my child on grade level, and on track to be ready for college and a career? How do I know?

Ready for Success: Will my child be prepared to succeed in whatever comes next?

  • How will you measure my child’s progress and ability in subjects including reading, math, science, the arts, social and emotional development, and other activities?
  • How much time will my child spend preparing for and taking state and district tests? How will my child’s teacher and I know how to use the results to help my child make progress?

Safe and Healthy: Is my child safe and cared for at school?

  • What programs are in place to ensure that the school is a safe, nurturing and positive environment? What are the discipline and bullying policies at the school?
  • Are the meals and snacks provided healthy? How much time is there for recess and/or exercise?

Great Teachers: Is my child engaged and learning every day?

  • How do I know my child’s teachers are effective?
  • How much time do teachers get to collaborate with one another?
  • What kind of professional development is available to teachers here?

Equity and Fairness: Does my child, and every child at my child’s school or program, have the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly?

  • How does the school make sure that all students are treated fairly? (For example, are there any differences in suspension/expulsion rates by race or gender?)
  • Does the school offer all students access to the classes they need to prepare them for success, including English language learners and students with special needs (for example, Algebra I and II, gifted and talented classes, science labs, AP or IB classes, art, music)?

In addition to the questions to ask of your child’s school, the checklist follows up with what to do if your child is not being educated to the known high standards for their grade level, advice from teachers on how to support your child’s success, and resources to help you help your child at home. It can be tough for a parent or caregiver to know how to support their child’s learning, but the new parent checklist is a great place to start.